Not only is it the right thing to do, but it also delivers tangible results.
I am often asked how to create better links between these two sectors, and there are of course many great examples – Accord being just one of them.
Accord is a housing association, but providing care and support forms a key part of our business.
We work closely with the NHS to improve the wellbeing of our communities, provide integrated health, housing and care services, and we have developed ways to maximise the use of surplus NHS land – our latest housing and care development is on the site of an NHS hospital.
So, how do we make this happen?
First, ensure it is a strategic decision. Accord took a clear decision at board level to become a partner with the NHS and defined how we would approach this.
This important step enabled us to be clear about our proposed partnership role, both as a housing provider and as a care provider, and we have invested the time and resources to make this happen.
Second, you need to understand your local health economy.
We have engaged with NHS providers as well as commissioners, as it’s often the NHS Trusts that drive change locally.
We have also contacted the NHS sustainability and transformation partnership (STP) Estate Leads, an excellent local resource keen to work in partnership to develop solutions.
Engaging with decision makers is crucial, too.
One of the most frequent issues housing colleagues raise is the frustration of not being able to reach the right people in the NHS.
In the West Midlands, I approached a legal firm that works across health and housing and asked if they could use their contacts to help facilitate a networking opportunity.
They arranged roundtable events, connecting senior leaders across the sectors.
These helped to create a better understanding and provided a useful platform to identify and take forward joint opportunities.
Ensuring you exchange expertise is also important.
Housing providers have many skills and valuable knowledge that the NHS values and needs – for example, our commercial acumen, ability to create solutions, development and pace of delivery.
There is an investment of time and resource needed, there will be the inevitable delays and distractions and you will most definitely need persistence and patience.
However, a successful partnership between housing and health is well worth the effort and helps both sectors meet the needs of the people they serve.
Maxine Espley’s piece appeared in 24houisng’s May edition.